Fraud committed through romance and dating scams continues to rise according to the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch. Criminals look for possible victims online, generally single or recently unattached people, through singles and dating-related ‘meet’ websites, social media platforms, or e-mail blasts. In some cases, on-line relationships with these individuals have cost some victims many thousands of dollars before the “relationship” ends, usually without ever meeting in person. The Canadian Fraud Centre says that in 2013 there were 1,728 complaints of romance fraud. Of these complaints, 1,149 victims, often women, lost a combined total of $15.6 million.
Although police say all types of fraud are under-reported, the romance scam is also an emotional roller coaster. Therefore, a victim is dealing with severe financial hardship and the personal embarrassment and torment after realizing they have been taken advantage of.
Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of a Romance / Dating Scam include:
- Checking website addresses carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with very similar addresses to legitimate dating websites.
- Never send money, or give personal credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust. A request to send money to a foreign country to someone you have never personally met should be a red flag.
- Don’t give out any personal information in an email or when you are chatting online. Educate yourself. Check the person’s name, the company name, and the addresses used.
- Ask yourself: “Would someone I have never met really declare their love for me after only a few letters or emails?” If the answer is no, report it to police.
If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of romance fraud, or if you have already sent funds, don’t be embarrassed – you’re not alone. Contact your local police service or Crime Stoppers.